Between teaching Seminary and raising five children, I have plenty of opportunities to consider the topic of appropriate language. The other day, for example, one teenager referred to another as a “brown noser.” I asked, “Do you have any idea what that means?” Blank stare. Another piped up, “Yeah, it means that he sucks.” Arggh!
With the recent selection of teams for the NCAA tournament, there are plenty of opportunities for fans to express their opinions. Often, these expressions make reference to sex: so-and-so “got hosed,” “got the shaft,” or “was screwed.” (Hmm … not a positive portrayal of sex in the whole bunch.) Earlier this morning, I was reporting on last week’s home teaching adventures to my EQ President, and I wanted to explain that one of my families had cancelled an appointment. I almost wrote that I was “stiffed,” but then refrained. Is this a sexual reference? Yes, I am becoming paranoid.
While I try to avoid making inadvertant sexual references, the language police sometimes go too far. A few years ago, I used the expression “more bang for the buck” in class. Afterwards, two women approached me and said that they thought the expression was inappropriate. They claimed that it had reference to prostitution. Ok, I did a little research, and they were wrong, but I never use that expression without thinking of the incident.
So I am curious if others think about such things. Are there common expressions that you find offensive? Or do you think that people who worry about such things are hopeless prudes who should find something better to do with their time?
Then there is the subject of curse words, swear words, cuss words, etc. The F-word seems clearly out of bounds, as are any derivatives. References to sexual organs and other body parts often associated with sex are also taboo, unless used in a clinical sense in the context of a discussion about chastity. The S-word is usually off limits, except with some farmer-types, but even modern farmers tend to use “manure.” References to female dogs usually don’t go over well, but are less shocking than some of the other words. In my experience, the two words that serve to divide “liberal” and “orthodox” Mormons are “damn” and “hell.” If you want to signal to others that you are on the edge, use them. But even here, walk gently. It’s probably best not to use them over the pulpit, unless you are giving a talk on the plan of salvation.